The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Holden decides to buy a record for Phoebe. The album is for children, and Holden knows it might be hard to find, but he has wanted to buy it for Phoebe ever since he heard it at Pencey. Making his way to a record store, he decides to look for Phoebe in the park after he buys the album, since she usually spends her Sundays in the park. When he nears a church, he starts walking behind a family dressed in clothes indicating that they don’t have much money. The parents are walking together without paying attention to their young son, who sings, “If a body catch a body coming through the rye.” Holden finds the boy’s voice touching, and he appreciates that he’s simply singing for the sake of singing. Consequently, the song makes Holden happier than he’s been all day.     
Holden’s thoughts about Phoebe and the joy he feels in response to the young boy’s song both indicate his idealization of purity and childhood. Holden can tell that the boy in front of the church comes from a poor family, but this doesn’t stop the young child from singing in a sweet, carefree way. To Holden, this is very touching and significant, since he wishes he himself could embody such unbridled happiness despite the various hardships that have befallen him throughout life.
Themes
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Holden goes to Broadway to buy theater tickets for his date with Sally. He despises the way everyone around him is dressed up and excited to go to the movies or a play. He finds it especially despicable that these people actively want to spend their Sundays doing these things, so he hastily ducks into a record store and buys the album for Phoebe. Though it’s rather expensive, purchasing it for her once again improves his mood. Eager to give it to her, he hurries toward the park, though not before stopping in a drugstore and calling Jane. When her mother answers, though, he immediately hangs up, feeling as if he has to be in the right “mood” to converse with a girl’s mother. He then remembers to buy the theater tickets.
Holden comes close to actually talking to Jane in this moment. This is most likely because he’s so depressed by his feeling that everyone around him is “phony.” Being on Broadway depresses him, making him think of humanity as trivial and silly, though it’s worth noting that he himself is doing the same thing as everyone around him—buying tickets for a show. Nonetheless, he’s fed up with everyone else’s shallowness, so he wants to speak to Jane, whom he thinks is perfect. When he calls, though, he once again backs down, perhaps sensing that he wouldn’t be able to take it if Jane ended up somehow shattering his conception of her.
Themes
Phoniness Theme Icon
Women and Sex Theme Icon
Holden gets tickets for him and Sally to go to a play starring several famous actors. He knows that Sally will be immensely pleased to see this production, but he himself is hardly excited. This is because he hates actors, thinking that they never actually behave like real people. Or, rather, he dislikes it when actors are too good at acting, since this only reminds him that they’ve studied their parts and worked hard to be realistic. Worst of all, Holden constantly worries that an actor is going to do something “phony,” which makes it hard for him to enjoy the theater. 
It’s unsurprising that Holden dislikes the theater, since he can’t stand the idea of somebody acting inauthentically. At the same time, it’s worth pointing out that he can’t quite stay away from the things he supposedly hates. In fact, he has already been to a movie, two nightclub concerts, and is now about to go to a Broadway show. Despite his scorn for show business, then, he is apparently quite drawn to it, making him no different from the people he so harshly judges.
Themes
Phoniness Theme Icon
Having secured theater tickets, Holden goes to the park to find Phoebe. When he arrives, though, she’s nowhere to be seen, so he asks a little girl if she knows his sister. The girl is busy lacing up her roller-skates, and Holden gladly helps her tighten them as she informs him that Phoebe is most likely at the Museum of Natural History, since the classes in their school have been taking turns going there on the weekends. The little girl’s class went last Saturday, so she thinks Phoebe is probably there with her class this weekend. This delights Holden, who decides to make his way to the museum. Just as he’s about to leave, though, he remembers that it’s Sunday, not Saturday. All the same, he goes anyway.
Holden isn’t looking forward to his date with Sally, so he concentrates on tracking down his sister, one of the only people he genuinely respects. In doing so, he tries to forget that he has made a plan to go to the theater with somebody he doesn’t even respect (Sally), thereby perpetuating his cycle of loneliness, human connection, and cynicism.
Themes
Phoniness Theme Icon
Alienation and Meltdown Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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Holden thinks about how comforting it is that the displays in the Museum of Natural History are frozen in time. He fondly remembers the fieldtrips he took here as a kid each year, recalling that the glass display cases never changed. This is the beauty of the museum, he thinks—you can always go back and discover that the only thing that has changed is you yourself. This, he believes, is how life should be, since he thinks certain things should always stay the same, though he recognizes that this is impossible.
Holden, who fears and hates adulthood, likes things that don’t change. Needless to say, the museum displays fit this description, since they freeze things in time. This is an especially appealing concept to Holden because of Allie’s death. When Allie died, Holden effectively froze him in an ideal state of childhood innocence. Unfortunately, though, most things in real life are in a state of constant change, ultimately forcing Holden to recognize that it’s impossible to hold onto his connection to Allie forever. The museum, however, helps him believe that he’ll always be able to preserve an untarnished memory of his brother.
Themes
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Despite his nostalgic thoughts about the museum, Holden can’t bring himself to go inside when he arrives. Suddenly, the idea of entering seems vastly unpleasant, so he hails a taxi and makes his way to where he’s going to meet Sally, though the idea of going on a date with her doesn’t appeal to him, either.
Holden can’t enter the museum because he knows that the unchanging displays are inaccurate representations of the way time works. Because he wants to preserve the illusion that certain things can always stay the same, he decides not to enter the museum, knowing that he won’t be able to keep thinking this way if he comes face to face with the glass cases and fully admits to himself that they are simply recreations of history, and thus the very embodiment of “phoniness.”
Themes
Phoniness Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Madness, Depression, Suicide Theme Icon